Germán Sciaini

Professor, Chemistry; Canada Research Chair in Atomically-Resolved Dynamics & Ultrafast High-Resolution Imaging

Research interests: Femtosecond electron diffraction; ultrafast electron microscopy; femtosecond non-linear optical techniques


Professor Germán Sciaini is a world expert in the field of ultrafast structural dynamics. He received his degree of Licentiate in Chemistry and PhD with distinction from the University of Buenos in 2001 and 2006, respectively. Since 2006, as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto and later on as a Group Leader at the Max Planck for Structure and Dynamics of Matter, Sciaini has been developing state-of-art instrumentation for the study of dynamical phenomena with prerequisite spatial (10-10 m) and temporal (10-13 s) resolutions to capture atoms in motion.

Sciaini joined the University of Waterloo as an Associate Professor in January 2014. He has co-authored more than 30 publications in total; including 1 Science report, 3 Nature reports, and 3 extensive review articles.

Sciaini is a Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) in “atomically resolved dynamics and ultrafast high-resolution imaging”, he is heading the Ultrafast electron Imaging Laboratory, at the Department of Chemistry, which is home of a time-resolved electron diffraction setup and an ultrafast high-resolution electron microscope.


  • PhD, Chemistry, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2006

Germán Sciaini


Ultrafast lasers provided the “first light” in sufficiently short pulses to monitor atomic motion on the relevant timescales; below a millionth of a millionth of a second, to literally catch atoms on the fly as in stop-motion photography. However, the spatial resolution in optical microscopy is limited to about the size of a big virus. This is about ten thousand times too coarse to observe the molecular structure at its finest detail, down to its fundamental building blocks – atoms.

The progress in the development of ultrafast structure-sensitive cameras over the last 20 years has been tremendous, with large scale, kilometers long facilities such as LCLS (Stanford, USA) and SACLA (Japan) built to provide us with the temporal and spatial resolutions required to observe atoms in motion.

Based on the use of ultrashort electron bursts, Professor Sciaini’s group, at the University of Waterloo, develops such “atomic-level” cameras for the study of structure and dynamics with atomic spatial resolution. His research program focuses on the study of photoinduced processes in strongly correlated ultrathin film materials as well as brain cell membranes and their microstructures at the atomic level.

Only 50 years ago, transition states, bond breaking and bond formation events were thought to be immeasurably fast. Nowadays, we have reached the spatial and temporal resolutions required to observe atoms in motion and, with that, been able to provide the most fundamental understanding of dynamical phenomena relevant to physics, chemistry, and biology.


Selected Publications

  • M. Hada, K. Pichugin & G. Sciaini. [Invited tutorial review] “Ultrafast structural dynamics with table top femtosecond hard X-ray and electron diffraction setups”. Eur. Phys. J. Special Topics 222, 1093 (2013).
  • M. Gao†€ , C. Lu, H. Jean-Ruel, L. C. Liu, A. Marx, K. Onda, S-y. Koshihara, Y. Nakano, X. Shao, T. Hiramatsu, G. Saito, H. Yamochi, R. R. Cooney, G. Moriena, G. Sciaini† & R.J.D. Miller. “Mapping Molecular Motions Leading to Charge Delocalization with Ultrabright Electrons” (†€ equal contributions) Nature 496, 343 (2013).
  • G. Sciaini & R.J.D. Miller, “Femtosecond Electron Diffraction: Heralding the Era of Atomically-Resolved Dynamics”. [Invited Review] Rep. Prog. Phys. 74, 096101 (2011).
  • M. Eichberger† , H. Schäfer†€ , M. Krumova, M. Beyer, J. Demsar, H. Berger, G. Moriena, G. Sciaini† & R.J.D. Miller, “Snapshots of Cooperative Atomic Motions in the Optical Suppression of Charge Density Waves”. († equal contributions). Nature 468, 799 (2010).
  • G. Sciaini, M. Harb, S. G. Kruglik, Th. Payer, C. T. Hebeisen, F.-J. Meyer zu Heringdorf, M. Yamaguchi, M. Horn von Hoegen, R. Ernstorfer & R.J.D. Miller, “Electronic acceleration of atomic motions and disordering in Bismuth”. Nature 458, 56 (2009).

Please see German Sciaini's Google Scholar profile for a current list of his peer-reviewed articles.